Capitol Alert

Middle Class Scholarship program delayed by eligibility tweak

Last-minute changes to eligibility requirements for athletes and part-time students have delayed the rollout of California’s new Middle Class Scholarship.

The California Student Aid Commission now expects to distribute the initial $107 million funding pot, for students in the University of California or California State University systems whose families earn between $80,000 and $150,000, by mid-September, after many campuses have already returned for fall semester, according to commission director Diana Fuentes-Michel.

“It’s a technical workload issue,” she said. “We’re doing our best to get the awards to students as soon as possible.”

The student aid commission originally expected to distribute grants to eligible students over the summer, but a budget trailer bill changed eligibility criteria to factor in athletic scholarships and extend funding to part-time students who meet a credit threshold.

Fuentes-Michel said campuses had to go back and review their enrollment files to determine which students are eligible under the new rules. It is unclear whether that will result in more or fewer awards than the 156,000 the commission initially anticipated, she added.

The Middle Class Scholarship, spearheaded by Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, was an effort to assist families left behind by rapidly rising college costs and left out of need-based financial aid. Students whose families earn less than $80,000 do not pay tuition at UC or CSU schools.

The program will ultimately pay for between 10 and 40 percent of tuition, depending on a student’s income level, by the time it is fully implemented in 2017, at an estimated annual cost of $305 million.